I remember sitting with a group of my friends one night when the discussion of Greek Life came up. One of my close friends, who happens to be Canadian, interjected the conversation to ask what a “fraternity” and “sorority” were, as she explained to us that Greek Life doesn’t exist back where she’s from. She went on to say that she had only been informed about the stereotypical image of Greek Life. Similar to my Canadian friend, many individuals, American natives or not, regard Greek Life as an exclusive system that creates and maintains a rigid social hierarchy amongst college campuses as well as encourages certain behaviors that can be dangerous in the long run. Greek Life can have damaging effects on both the shared as well as individual level, such as hazing, rape, and other significant factors. With this being said, joining Greek Life on a college campus is more harmful than beneficial.
Probably the most negatively profound impact connected to Greek Life is hazing. Hazing, defined as a series of humiliating and sometimes dangerous imitation rituals, is an extremely large problem for newly commenced members of fraternities and sororities, and is prevalent on many college campuses throughout the nation.. According to USA Today there has been at least on hazing related death per year across college campuses since 1975, a statistic that continues to rise despite its illegal status. Most times, hazing happens in an undercover manner to ensure that a fraternity or sorority will not face academic or legal repercussions. Additionally, although hazing can include offenses as minor as running errands for older organization members, it is often more severe than that and it can take a toll on a student’s’ mental, physical, and emotional health.
In addition to hazing, rape has increasingly become tied to Greek institutions. Not including sororities, it has been widely debated on whether male groups such as fraternities are partly responsible for the creation of rape culture where this behavior is not only tolerated, but encouraged as well. Many believe the Greek system establishes a sense of male dominance in terms of gender relations between women and men, where males are pressured to prove their manhood in every way possible during their college experience. Additionally, rape culture that is fostered through fraternity life is able to continue thriving due to the institutional attitude that aims to protect the university and male privileges of power and abuse. (add more)
Greek Life on college campuses constructs a superficial social hierarchy in which those belonging to what is known as “top tier” sororities or fraternities are higher on the social ladder, as opposed to those in more “bottom tier” organizations. This social tier system sometimes makes it more difficult for certain individuals to be accepted in different social scenes and creates a strong sense of exclusivity. Additionally, this rigid social pyramid put in place by Greek institutions not only enforces levels between those involved in Greek life, but also creates a societal divide between Greek and non-Greek students throughout campus. Usually depending on the campus, those who are affiliated with Greek Life have more social advantages than those who are unaffiliated. Again, this social hierarchy that exist between Greek and non-Greek reinforces the idea of exclusivity amongst college campuses.
Lastly, when an individual wishes to pledge either a fraternity or a sorority they must undergo a process known as “rush.” Although it can vary from campus to campus, rushing is the process of when an individual becomes briefly familiarized with the different on-campus fraternities or sororities, which can range from very casual to extremely formal. Usually this process last up to a few days and concludes with a “bid” or a membership invitation from a fraternity or sorority to the individual. The rushing process can have a great emotional and mental impact on an individual’s self-esteem depending on whether or not they receive a bid from a “top tier” organization or none at all. I personally remember what the energy was like during rush season living in an all girls dorm. I, as an unaffiliated student, found it interesting to observe from the outside how the rush process had such an immense effect on so many girls planning to join sororities. During this highly emotional time, there was a great deal of crying and devastation from girls not getting the bids they wanted or not receiving any bid at all, causing tensions to rise drastically. My own roommate who had had her heart set on receiving a bid from one of two specific sororities did not receive one from either and was thoroughly crushed. She questioned herself and her appearance for the rest of the day, believing she was in some way not as good as the other girls who had received these specific bids. As exemplified in my roommate’s and hall mates’ behaviors, rush can have a negative impact on one’s self-confidence and cause an individual to feel as if he or she is not worthy or good enough.